On 14 January 2012, I encountered two Long-billed Curlews on the mudflats in Bodega Harbor. Long-billed Curlews are the largest shorebird (sandpipers/plovers/relatives) in North America.
Especially noticeable is the long, decurved bill – up to 22 cm long! (Females have longer bills than males.) Long-billed Curlew is the less common of the two curlews that have been recorded on Bodega Head (the other is the Whimbrel).
Both birds were actively searching for food, probing the mud with their long bills.
One bird in particular was very successful. Can you tell what it caught?
I think it's a blue mud shrimp (Upogebia pugettensis). Note the large dark abdomen and paler claws. In one Bolinas Lagoon study, Long-billed Curlew diet included 20% ghost shrimp and 7% mud shrimp. Both of these shrimp live in deep burrows – mud shrimp burrows may be 20-100 cm deep.
After swallowing its prey, the curlew flew to a sandbar to rest. It must take a lot of energy to catch, swallow, and digest such sizable shrimp!